I’ve been working my way through Psalm 119 (which by the way is the longest chapter in the Bible) and was struck earlier this week by verse 164. The NIV translates the verse, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” The NLT renders it, “I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just.” And The Message paraphrases it, “Seven times each day I stop and shout praises for the way you keep everything running right.”
Both the NIV and NLT, as well as most translations, suggest the author’s praising of God is done in response to his instruction to his people in his word. In The Message, Eugene Peterson expands the reason to include God’s oversight and involvement in his creation.
While I like Peterson’s thought, I’m good with the majority opinion as well. My question is, “why praise God seven times a day?” I don’t think the Psalmist is declaring that he will praise God at least seven times a day, but no more. In other words, I think less than seven times a day works, and I think more than seven is good too.
The number seven is used a lot in the Bible beginning with the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest in Genesis 2:2. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, is filled with the number seven beginning with the letters to the seven churches in first chapter and throughout the book. I remember from Sunday School as a child learning that the number seven in the Bible is the number of completeness and perfection.
Most usages of the number 7 are referring to the exact number. For example, in II Kings 5:1-14 the Syrian general Naaman was told by the prophet Elisha his leprosy would be healed if he dipped in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman went and dipped seven times, and he was healed.
Back to Psalm 119:64 – if we follow the example of the writer, do you think we need to keep a count and make sure we praise God seven times a day – no more and no less? I don’t.
I think the Psalmist’s report to God that he praises God seven times a day is a challenge to readers of the Psalm to follow his example. We need to take note of God’s blessings and recognize how he has and is working in our lives. With that recognition we offer our praise and thanksgiving to him on daily basis. It’s not about doing it seven times a day, but about cultivating praising God as a way of life.
To praise God we don’t have to be at church, in a small group, or at a prayer meeting. We don’t have to say something out loud nor do we need to close our eyes (especially if we are driving!)
One final thought – we don’t praise God for his benefit, we do it for our benefit.
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